Africa Media Review for April 7, 2023

Gunmen Abduct 25 Cameroonians on Nigeria Border
Security forces in Cameroon are searching for at least 25 villagers that gunmen abducted along its border with Nigeria. Locals are calling on the governments to stop armed gangs operating on both sites of the border. Officials in Cameroon say unidentified gunmen abducted the villagers during daily attacks and looting this week in Ako district, on its western border with Nigeria. District officials say several hundred villagers fled from the attacks. Ako’s mayor Nkanya Nkwai says the unidentified gunmen operate on both sides of the porous Cameroon-Nigeria border. … The Mbembe Cultural and Development Association is a Cameroonian aid group helping villages along the border with Nigeria. President of the group Abel Shewa says the attackers are displacing scores of villagers every day, most of them women and children. VOA

Hundreds Protest in Khartoum as Government Deal Delayed
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Sudan’s capital Thursday, as talks with the country’s military rulers to bring in a civilian government hit a roadblock. Security forces met the demonstrations in Khartoum with tear gas and stun grenades, according to protester Waleed Adam. No injuries were immediately reported. Protesters have rejected any settlement involving Sudan’s military leaders following the 2021 coup. The demonstrations were led by a pro-democracy network, the Resistance Committees, and set off from southern Khartoum toward its government district. The renewal of street protests comes a day after the scheduled Thursday inking of a final settlement between the military and pro-democracy forces was postponed for the second time. AfricaNews/AP

Ethiopia to Dismantle Regional Special Forces in Favour of ‘Centralized Army’
The Ethiopian government said on Thursday it intends to integrate all regional special forces either into the national army, or the federal or regional police, a move likely to be perceived as an attempt to diminish the autonomy of individual regions. Ethiopia is organised in 10 regions that enjoy a degree of autonomy, ranging from having their own regional army to the right to use their own language. “The government has set a direction to build one strong and centralized army … it has started practical steps that will allow special forces of every region to be integrated into different security structures,” the government said in a statement. Hours before the announcement, local media from the Amhara region, Ethiopia’s second largest, reported clashes between national and regional forces brought about by a refusal among Amhara Special Forces’ units to surrender weapons as part of the integration process. Reuters

Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Unveils New Cabinet to Lead Political Transition
The newly elected president of Tigray’s interim administration, Getachew Reda, has unveiled a cabinet that will lead the region’s political transition after two years of conflict. The 27-member team is composed of former rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who fought Ethiopian government forces in the war. The establishment of an interim adminstration is part of the Pretoria peace accord implemented to end two years (2020–2022) of conflict opposing the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian Armed Forces. The announcement comes two weeks after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed Reda Getachew as leader of Tigray’s interim administration. The new cabinet is dominated by TPLF members but also includes two members of a Tigrayan opposition party, the National Congress of Great Tigray (Baytona). RFI

In Southern Ethiopia, Drought Kills Livestock amid Fears of What Comes Next
After three years of failed rains, the animals in the southern Ethiopian village of Kura Kalicha are dying. Dozens of decomposing cattle carcasses lie on the parched earth, their flesh picked over by scavengers. Jilo Wile, a local government official, fears the villagers will be next to succumb to the drought. More than 100 local residents are in hospital in critical condition from malnutrition, he said. “This number includes children, elders, and pregnant women,” said Jilo, who has lost 73 of his 75 cows to starvation. Like its neighbours Somalia and Kenya, southern Ethiopia is enduring the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades. Five consecutive rainy seasons have failed and the one underway is expected to as well, prompting warnings from aid agencies that more help is needed to head off a humanitarian crisis. Reuters

UN ‘Deeply Troubled’ by Burkina Media Clampdown
UN expressed deep concerns Thursday by Burkina Faso’s increasing clampdown on the media amid wider curbs on freedoms in the west African country. Burkina Faso recently expelled correspondents from the Liberation and Le Monde newspapers, in the latest move against French media by the junta ruling. “We are deeply troubled by the new restrictions on media and civic space in Burkina Faso following the suspension of media outlets and the expulsion of two foreign correspondents from the country… “In this period of transition, protection of independent voices is more necessary than ever – to enable scrutiny, to facilitate accountability, and to allow the space for the Burkinabé people to build a resilient, stable, and inclusive society together.” expressed Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. AfricaNews/AFP

After Burkina Faso Ousts French, Russia’s Wagner May Arrive
Just weeks after Burkina Faso’s junta ousted hundreds of French troops, signs appeared that the West African country could be moving closer to Russia, including the mercenary outfit, the Wagner Group. One signal was Burkina Faso authorities requested in February, nearly $30 million in gold from its mines to be handed over for “public necessity.” It’s unclear what the gold was used for but some suspect the gold could be used to hire mercenaries from the Wagner Group that already is entrenched in other troubled African countries like Mali and Central African Republic. … Burkina Faso’s government denies hiring Wagner mercenaries but the government is expecting Russian instructors to come train soldiers on how to use equipment recently purchased from Russia, said Mamadou Drabo, executive secretary for Save Burkina, a civic group that supports the junta. … Observers say countries using Wagner Group fighters often refer to them as Russian instructors. AP

Gabon Reduces Presidential Term to Five Years before Elections
Five months before elections, the parliament in Gabon on Thursday voted to reduce the president’s term from seven to five years. The vote amends the Constitution and also turns the presidential election into a single round. Sections of the opposition criticised the changes, in particular the end of two rounds of voting, as a means of “facilitating the re-election” of Ali Bongo Ondimba. The national assembly and senate held a joint session in the capital Libreville where 85 percent of votes backed the proposal, “well above the qualified majority of two-thirds required,” said assembly speaker Faustin Boukoubi. Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze said the outcome was the “result of a consensus after 10 days of political concertation between the majority and the opposition” in February. France24

Botswana’s Democracy under Threat – UN Review Mechanism
The alleged victimisation of former Botswana president Ian Khama, South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and a former Botswana intelligence officer Wilhelmina Maswabi was raised during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Botswana as standout examples of repression of people’s liberties in one of southern Africa’s democracies. On Monday, African Court on Human and People’s Rights Judge Dumisa Ntsebeza and Cherie Blair, a human rights lawyer in Geneva, briefed diplomats on “the key rule of law concerns emanating from State House in Gaborone”. They said Botswana was experiencing “a backsliding on civil and political rights”, leading to “anti-democratic repression and a rising tide of political persecution and violence”. Ntsebeza said President Mokgweetsi Masisi was using threats and lawfare to harass the opposition and media ahead of presidential elections due next year. News24

Ghana Deploys Officers to Town Bordering Burkina Faso
The authorities in Ghana say 1,000 soldiers and police officers are being deployed to a north-eastern border town after gunmen killed an immigration officer and left two others in hospital. It is not yet clear who opened fire on their vehicle in Bawku on Tuesday but there is concern about the security situation there because of the escalating jihadist conflict in neighbouring Burkina Faso. There are fears that Islamist militants causing havoc across the Sahel region could destabilise countries further south – including Ghana and Ivory Coast. Bawku also has a long history of ethnic tensions with outbreaks of violence. BBC

Zimbabwe Opposition Tweet Case Fuels Poll Crackdown Fears
One of Zimbabwe’s most vocal opposition politicians, Fadzayi Mahere, has narrowly avoided a prison sentence after being convicted of “communicating falsehoods” in 2021. The verdict has stoked fears of a brutal state clampdown on freedom of expression before this summer’s general election. Mahere, the firebrand spokesperson for the main opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), and one of the country’s leading politicians, faced up to 20 years in prison. She was fined US$500 (£400). … Her conviction comes ahead of a crucial presidential election that pits the CCC against the ruling Zanu-PF, which has been in power since independence in 1980. Outside court, a defiant Mahere said citizens had the right to freedom of expression. “As citizens who are desirous of change, who are hopeful about a new Zimbabwe, that courage to speak in line with what the constitution permits should never be taken away,” she said. Guardian

In Somalia’s War With Al-Shabab, Media Access an Issue
As Somalia gears up for the second phase of its war with al-Shabab militants, there is a tussle between the independent media and the government over how much access journalists should have to the front lines, liberated areas and combat operations. … Mohamed Abdiwahab, director of Mogadishu-based Radio Risaala, said during the first phase of the war, journalists did not get access to the front lines and mostly depended on what government officials and al-Shabab militants claimed. “We’ve got to get out there” with the troops and report from the front lines and liberated areas, so that Somali citizens will get the impartial news from independent journalists rather than waiting on counterclaims and press conferences of the opposing sides,” Abdiwahab said. Somali journalists often face a variety of obstacles, from forced self-censorship and constant threats, to limits on reporting military operations. … “We want freedom reporting; the government wants to control information,” a Mogadishu-based journalist said on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. “Denial of access to information and free reporting constitutes the most sweeping form of censorship we could face.” VOA

Pemba People Finally Given Kenyan Citizenship, Ending their Statelessness
The Pemba live along the Indian Ocean, on the Kenyan coast. They arrived in the 1930s and have since been stateless – living without title deeds, social security, access to studies or fishing permits. But this is changing, as the Kenyan government has now officially recognised this community of several thousand people. The steps allowing the Pemba to obtain Kenyan citizenship have begun and they will receive their identity cards in a few months’ time. It’s a chance at a new life for a community that has been marginalised for 90 years. Our correspondents report. France24

Senegal: Macky Sall Mum on 3rd Term Candidacy
Senegalese opposition parties want President Macky Sall to rule out running for a third term in office. As Senegal celebrates 63 years of independence, tensions between Sall and the opposition are mounting. Analysts have pointed out that Macky Sall has said nothing about his potential candidacy for the next election. The Senegalese constitution only allows presidents to serve two consecutive 5-year terms — yet Sall has insisted that it allows him to run for president again. If he were to run and win the vote, it would result in an unprecedented third term. For opposition figure Thierno Bocum, President Sall’s offer of dialogue is unclear, and says discussions cannot take place as long as the president does not rule out his candidacy for a third term. “If he decides not to run, he will be able to organize free and transparent elections,” he told DW. “And from that moment on, dialogue is possible. He must also allow all other candidates who are denied registration on the electoral lists, including the candidate Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade to be candidates.” … With just 10 months remaining in Macky Sall’s term, the usually peaceful West African nation has endured uncharacteristic protests. DW

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied Rejects IMF ‘Diktats’
Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday rejected “foreign diktats” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is in stalled talks with the heavily indebted country over a bailout package. “Regarding the IMF, foreign diktats that will lead to more poverty are unacceptable,” Saied told reporters in the coastal city of Monastir. Saied’s government reached an agreement in principle in mid-October for a nearly $2 billion package from the IMF, but the deal has not been approved by the lender’s board, a key step to unlocking support from other international lenders. The IMF has pushed Tunisia to remove state subsidies on basic goods, particularly fuel. … Tunisians have endured years of mounting economic pain, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The IMF was originally expected to approve a bailout deal on December 19, but that was delayed pending a Tunisian budget, which has since passed, and a law to stop banks charging excessive interest. AfricaNews

Mozambique Legalizes Local Militias to Help Fight Northern Insurgents
Mozambique has legalized creation of local militias under the military to help fight Islamist militants in the northern Cabo Delgado province. A decree was approved and announced Wednesday, after a Cabinet meeting in Maputo late that day. The government had secured parliamentary approval for the move in November, after the Defense Ministry admitted the Mozambican army could not deal with the militants alone. The self-defense local militias already help the Mozambican armed forces and military contingents from Rwanda and some Southern African Development Community countries in the fight in oil-rich Cabo Delgado. Cabinet spokesman Filimao Suazi said the local militia force will be formalized to strengthen the role of the defense and security forces in countering and containing the spread of militant Islamist incursions, protecting community settlements and public and private infrastructures. VOA

Guterres Calls for World ‘United in Peace’ as Ramadan, Easter, Passover Coincide
The UN chief has called for people of faith worldwide to “join their voices in a common prayer for peace”, as the holy festivals of Ramadan, Easter and Passover coincide this week. Secretary-General António Guterres issued his plea for peace acknowledging that it is “dramatically lacking” in many parts of the world, during an interview with UN News’s Arabic service, ahead of what has now become an annual visit for him, to a Muslim country beset by challenges, during the holy month of Ramadan. “I think this is the moment for us to be all united for peace. Peace is the most precious thing that we can have in the world”, Mr. Guterres said. “So, this is the moment to come together and for those that believe in God (in) different ways, with different expressions, to join their voices in a common prayer for peace.” … Next week, to mark what is a special time on the spiritual calendar for the Abrahamic faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – representatives from the world’s major religions, as well as the non-religious, will gather on Friday at UN Headquarters in New York, to pray for peace. UN News